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Aquinas graduate publishes her first book, "Running in Silence"

Rachael Steil opens up to tell her story of running in college while battling an eating disorder. What stared as a raw food diet in order to lose weight and gain speed turned into a long road to self-discovery.
Rachael displays her debut book, "Running in Silence"

Rachael displays her debut book, "Running in Silence" /Rachael Steil

"Running in Silence," excerpt

"If food was the secret, I knew I had to continue controlling it in silence. I had to act like I always ate a ton and I just happened to be a skinny girl. Because if I admitted the discipline, the calculation of calories, and the obsession with weight, then I would have to admit that something was wrong, that I didn’t run this fast out of pure will and determination. I would have to admit that my success was a fraud. And that freshman year, as I looked into the mirror, as I stepped onto that scale every morning, as I crawled into bed every night—stomach growling, mind racing, heart anxious—I laughed and I cried. I soothed the aching, empty belly, and I whispered, she is mine.”

Rachael Steil has an impressive running résumé. As a student at Grandville High School, she broke numerous school records while on the track team. While an English major at Aquinas College, she was named an All-American collegiate runner, placed 7th at the NAIA track nationals, and also broke school records in both track and cross-country. However, throughout all of the success and positive representation of her community, she secretly battled with an eating disorder, which she reveals in her debut self-help memoir, Running in Silence: My Drive for Perfection & the Eating Disorder That Fed It (Koehler Books).

Competitive runners tend to make food a priority in their lives, which makes sense given that for athletes, food is fuel. It’s an important part of the equation that directly impacts performance. Rachael experienced this when her mile time dropped by 10 seconds, and only afterwards realized that it was her weight loss that allowed her to reach a new personal record. Wanting to further that success, she started a raw food diet to lose more weight in order to run faster.

As an avid writer, she decided to record her experiences in a journal, expecting to look back on it and see what greatness this diet change would help her achieve. Her teammates, coaches, friends, and family gave her continuous praise for her increasing speed along with her overall image, so what could be wrong about that? While she became more successful in the collegiate running world, Rachael gradually went from intrigued to obsessed with food.

Her life was overcome with numbers: calories, split times, the scale. With a Type-A, competitive personality, she controlled everything within her power. Food was filling her thoughts and journal, but not her stomach. Day and night as she researched the raw food diet in every minute of her spare time.

This diet lasted for a year, while the eating disorder lingered far beyond that. Calorie-counting and restriction inevitably led to binge eating and bulimia, and she became caught in a vicious cycle of willpower. The numbers on the scale crept up, and she decided to start posting the journal entries on her website,, to serve as an explanation for why she had gained some weight back.

Finally admitting that she needed help, Rachael opened up to her mother. During recovery she realized that there is more to life than running and food, and because of that, Rachael believes in having a “core" to rely on. Knowing yourself at the deepest level can help you get through anything, and that's something she wants her readers to discover from her story. "The book isn't just about food and running, it's about identity and coming to terms with who we are and finding ourselves." 

Rachael understands the power of storytelling and its ability to connect to others. "I'm not just telling my story, but allowing others to think more deeply about their own stories, and I think that’s really important.”

The positive feedback she received from her blog entries inspired her to make her story more tangible and accessible. Throughout her countless hours of research, she never discovered anything that really fit her, as a runner with an eating disorder. “I decided to make that book that I wanted to read.” Running in Silence is not only about Rachael’s journey of self-discovery, but it also acts as a self-help book, with tips and advice for any readers who may need it.

But it’s not all about running – she challenges the stigma of eating disorders and works to correct the misconceptions they bring. Even those who may not be able to personally relate can gain insight on the issue.

Running in Silence is currently available for presale at Barnes & Noble. The book release party is on Tuesday, November 15 from 7:00-8:30 p.m. at SheActive Boutique in Rockford. The public are also invited to attend a reading and book signing at Aquinas College from 12:30-1:30 p.m. on Wednesday, November 16. More readings in December and January are currently in the works. You can find her book on and, or send her an email and she will personally mail a copy. 

More information about Rachael and her book can be found on the Running in Silence website, Facebook page, and YouTube account.

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